[News] The Search for Identity - Ariana Varela - an Archives Intern

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 17 15:32:44 EST 2015

    The Search for Identity

Posted on December 15, 2015 

During my third semester at the Freedom Archives I cataloged the raw 
audio materials of Colin Edwards’ series on Californians of Mexican 
Descent. In this ten part radio program from the early 1960s, Edwards 
interviewed Mexican-Americans from various socioeconomic backgrounds in 
order to create a comprehensive series that grasps the multiplicity of 
the Mexican-American experience. Through a series of patterned questions 
asked to each interviewee, themes including conflict over identities, 
pressures towards assimilation and divisions between generations, were 
all explored. It was interesting to find that many of the themes present 
in this series are sentiments that still exist within Chican@ 
communites. There is an underlying sense of not qualifying as solely 
Mexican or American, but rather needing to successfully navigate through 
and occupy both spheres. Although there were many relatable issues, one 
thing that struck me when listening to these interviews was the various 
outlooks towards discrimination faced by the Mexican-American community.

Accounts of racial, social and economic discrimination varied amongst 
the interviewees but having grown up in a predominantly Latino 
community, I was unaware of discrimination towards Chican at s in 
educational or professional settings. I never felt like a “minority” in 
the community which I grew up in and those surrounding me I was always 
part of a majority population where there was no discrimination based on 
being “other”. It was not until I moved away for college that I was made 
so conscious of my ethnicity and culture. At home, it was easy to 
navigate being Mexican-American because most people were Latino so there 
was a semblance of a shared experience. Now that I have left that 
comfort zone and I interact with diverse populations I feel the need to 
be an American who simultaneously embodies and educates others on the 
whole Latino experience, who points out the intersections of gender, 
race and economic standing. In college, a defining feature of my 
identity is the fact that I am Mexican. I am often questioned about my 
language, customs and asked to challenge ill-informed stereotypes. At 
home I am seen as too American because I am not fluent in Spanish and I 
don’t retain traditional customs and beliefs, I am deviating from my 

After listening to individuals sharing their sentiments and experiences, 
I felt a sort of validation. Never before had I worked with materials in 
an academic setting that explores what for me is a lived reality. Seeing 
this specific form of social history documented and studied in such a 
way reinforces the importance of individual lived realities. Even in 
institutions of higher education where students are actually given the 
chance to study different histories, they don’t always get the chance to 
work with such personal accounts that resonate with and reinforce 
overarching historical themes.

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-Ariana Varela

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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